The Photoelectric Eﬀect
MIT Department of Physics
(Dated: October 23, 2009) The objective of this experiment is to demonstrate the particle-like aspects of electromagnetic waves and to determine Planck’s constant h. You measure the maximum kinetic energy of electrons ejected by the photoelectric eﬀect from an alkali metal surface as a function of frequency. The constant “oﬀset” is caused by the work function φ of the metal, e.g. the minimum energy needed to get an electron out of the speciﬁc metal.
1. If a certain metal with a work function of φ = 2.5 eV is illuminated by monochromatic light of wavelength 3500 ˚, what is the maximum kinetic A energy of the electrons ejected in the photoelectric eﬀect? 2. What are the principal lines in the spectrum of a mercury discharge lamp (see Reference ), and Oriel High Power Mercury Lamp Specifcations? Could you observe the photoelectric eﬀect on a silver (as opposed to potassium) cathode? 3. How does a narrow-band optical interference ﬁlter work? See Optical Interference Filters . 4. Plot the expected curves of current against retarding voltage when the cathode of the tube is illuminated with light of wavelengths 3650 ˚, 4035 ˚, A A 4360 ˚, 5460 ˚, and 5775 ˚, respectively. Assume A A A I0 = 1 nA at 3650 ˚. A
that matter radiates its energy in quanta of energy hν. He postulated that light delivers its energy to an absorber in quanta with energy hν. Thus, if it takes an amount of energy φ to lift an electron out of the surface and away from its image charge, then the residual kinetic energy K of the ejected electron is
K = hν − φ
THE PHOTOELECTRIC EFFECT
1921 Nobel Prize was awarded to Albert Einstein for his discovery of “the law of photoelectric eﬀect”. It was not until 1912 that the technical problems of making precision measurements of the photoelectric eﬀect were overcome by 1928 Nobel Laureate Sir Owen Wilans Richardson and K. T. Compton (former MIT president) to the point where the Einstein photoelectric equation could be tested to high accuracy and used in precise determinations of Planck’s Constant h = 6.626 × 10−34 J · s = 4.135 × 10−15 eV · s. In this experiment you will measure the photoelectric current from an alkali metal surface as a function of a retarding potential that opposes the escape of the electrons from the surface. From the data you will be able to derive the value of Plank’s constant and the work function φ of the cathode material.
A very accessible introduction to this material is in the American Institute of Physics A Look Inside the Atom. In 1895 Heinrich Hertz observed that ultraviolet light from the sparks of his generator for radio waves he had recently discovered, falling on the negative electrode of his radio wave detector, induced the ﬂow of electricity in the gap between the electrodes. Pursuing the phenomenon in detail, he discovered the photoelectric eﬀect whereby light of suﬃciently short wavelength causes the ejection of electrons from a metal surface. 1905 Nobel Laureate Philipp Lenard made improved measurements and demonstrated by determination of their charge to mass ratio that the ejected particles are identical with the electrons that had recently been discovered by 1906 Nobel Laureate J. J. Thomson in experiments with cathode rays. Crude though the early data were, the qualitative fact of the dependence of the critical cutoﬀ voltage on the wavelength of light emerged with suﬃcient clarity to induce the young Albert Einstein, working as a patent examiner in the Swiss Patent Oﬃce in 1905, to link the effect with the recent idea, introduced by Planck in 1900,
The apparatus is depicted in Figure 1. Familiarize yourself with all of the components before turning anything on or making any signal connections. The Agilent variable DC Power supply provides the retarding voltage between the anode and the cathode. Pay close attention to the grounding connections between the electrometer and the power supply! If the power supply meter does not have suﬃcient resolution, try using an external digital voltmeter.
The radiation source for this experiment is a highpower mercury discharge lamp Oriel 65130. You should turn on the lamp as soon as you begin the lab to allow it to warm up. The spectral output of the lamp will change during the ﬁrst 10 – 15 minutes. Once the lamp has sta-
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because the cathode surface interacts with the remaining gases in the photocell as a getter.5 0 3000 3500 4000 4500 5000 5500 6000
triaxial connector for double grounding and thus be certain that you insert a BNC-Triax connector before connecting the BNC cable from the cathode. For this reason.tex.3 eV) deposited onto an oxidized silver coating electrically connected to the cylindrical brass cap on top of the cell. the spectral output is similar to that shown in Figure 2.
Connecting the Apparatus
Connect the phototube cathode to the Keithly electrometer operating as an ultra-sensitive ammeter.5 1 0. It is not possible to precisely determine the work function for removing an electron. Light striking the anode ring can produce photoelectrons that cause a reverse (negative) current in
. Note that the input connector to the electrometer requires a
Measure. Turn on the power supply and reduce the retarding voltage to zero. Illuminate the photocathode with light of the various spectral lines of mercury selected by the interference ﬁlters mounted on the ﬁlter wheel. The narrow band pass ﬁlters used to select individual mercury emission lines have a preferred orientation. 1: Experimental arrangement for measuring the photoelectric eﬀect. potassium oxide and oxidized silver.
3 2. The photocell consists of an evacuated glass bulb and is fragile! 2.Id: 005. Do not subject the photo cell to mechanical stresses. The former is a diﬃcult quantity to estimate as due to the manufacturing process which makes the cathode surface not homogeneous. Protect the photo cell from overheating
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("COM" on back)
PHOTOSURFACE (CATHODE) AGILENT POWER SUPPLY
4. The potassium is the source of the photo-ejected electrons in this experiment. You may want to start with the more energetic spectral lines. Bottom Panel: Shows the lamp output after passing through the 4360 ˚ ﬁlA ter.5 1 0. Protect the photo cell against excessive incident light (use ﬁlters if necessary!)
With 4360 Angstrom Band−pass Filter
2 1.7 eV). With creative use of black tape and the open hole. The lens focuses the light to avoid hitting the anode ring. Rigorously convince yourself that the current you are measuring is a photoelectric current caused by the mercury lamp. The emission work function of the photoelectrons can vary locally! 1.5
Spectral Output of Thermo−Oriel Hg Lamp Model #65130
2 1. It is important to note that the electronic work function ‘W’ is a material constant which incorporates the diﬀerent emission potentials of the cathode and anode. one can correct for ambient light eﬀects if necessary. The anode ring is made from platinum-rhodium alloy (φP t = 5. The cathode of the Leybold photocell is a very thin layer of potassium (φK = 2. and plot the phototube current as a function of the the retarding voltage for each ﬁlter.5 0 3000
3 2. Repeat the series of measurements at least ﬁve times to obtain the data necessary for a reliable estimate of the random errors of measurement. point the highly-reﬂecting side (a silvery color) toward the lamp and the colored side towards the phototube cathode. Be careful not to place the ﬁlters too close to the lamp! The heat can bleach the color of the ﬁlters. tabulate. PROCEDURE
3. The following are practical problems with which you must contend: 1. leading to undeﬁned behavior! Monitor the heat of the ﬁlters as you perform the experiment. you need to take care that the same area is always illuminated. so that the surface characteristics change a little from the ideal case. Make sure to extend the measurements beyond I = 0 in order to measure the eﬀects of “reverse” current. Typical photoelectric currents are 100-1000 nA. It is composed of a mixture of potassium.2. 3.v 1.photoelectric. 2: Top Panel: Spectral output of the Thermo-Oriel 65130 Hg lamp after ∼ 20 minutes warmup.
Plot the cutoﬀ voltages against the center frequency of the ﬁlter bandpass. If you can use two diﬀerent methods. 3.
5. Discuss in detail how the cutoﬀ is determined. The potential energy in eV of an electron as a function of distance from a smooth conducting plane. 3: Figure (a): electrons will travel in a straight direction when emitted for Vretarding =0. ﬁt your plots of current I vs. Baking out the anode ring
4. When the grounding is proper. Check to see if the current you are measuring is aﬀected when you cover the experiment with black cloth. as the potassium atoms baked out of the anode ring can precipitate over the entire photocell. You can avoid such interference by keeping the connecting wires as short and direct as possible and free of loops. Bake out the anode ring only if the measurement cannot be improved by any other means.photoelectric.1. the ammeter will be prone to pick up induced currents from ambient magnetic ﬁelds and your inducing charges while moving near the apparatus. Your measurement chain may be sensitive to ambient light. Figure (b) electron trajectories are nonlinear for ﬁnite retarding voltages. estimate the variance.7 2002/09/25 14:04:39 sewell Exp sewell
the electrometer and confuse the identiﬁcation of the critical cutoﬀ voltage. Proper grounding of the apparatus is essential to obtaining reliable data.tex. retarding voltage Vr to the following functional form: If it (Vr ) = aVr + b. One signiﬁcant problem lies in the observation that the current decrease is not linear close to the cutoﬀ voltage. Classically consider a metal atom (d = 0. 3.Id: 005. 2.
Topics which may come up during oral exams
1. Because you are measuring such small currents (the currents you obtain with no retarding voltage should be on the order of hundreds of picoamps). When the process is performed improperly.
tions of the change in cutoﬀ voltage from one wavelength to the next if you normalize your current data so that the zero-voltage values are all the same. the electrometer readings should be unaffected by touching or moving your hand near the equipment. (2)
5. making it necessary to bake out the anode ring. Plots of normalized current versus retarding voltage will then show clearly the eﬀect of photon energy on the cutoﬀ voltage. 2. The wave-particle duality of photons and electrons.
Determine the cutoﬀ value of the retarding voltage for each of the ﬁlters.
FIG. For instance.
1. and assess the random and systematic errors of each determination.
. Consider cases (a) and (b) below for easy visualization. you might want to use a short piece of copper wire to ground the positive terminal of the power supply as shown in Figure 1. It is therefore important to focus the light beam so that it passes cleanly through the ring without illuminating it. the diﬀerence in h and φ will give you a lower limit of the systematic errors. You may also ﬁnd it useful to twist some of the cables together.v 1.1. Suggestion: You can probably make more reliable determina-
for two cases: (a) the data as recorded by you and (b) after scaling the data and errors to I0 = 1 nA. Experiment with the location of the lens to produce the sharpest image possible at the aperture to the photocell holder.3 nm) bathed in radiation of intensity 1 mW m−2 . releasing more potassium and can irreparably damage the device! Please do not attempt this procedure without ﬁrst consulting a member of the technical staﬀ!
6. taking account of the eﬀects of the errors in the cutoﬀ determinations on your evaluation of the slope and intercept. Compute h and φ from your plots and estimate the random and systematic errors. From your (hopefully) independent (what does that mean?) measurements. How long does it take to accumulate enough energy to overcome φ = 4 eV? How can you disprove the classical estimate?
Potassium can precipitate on the anode ring in very old photo cells in the course of storage at higher ambient temperatures or under illumination of the photocell at very high intensities. With these random errors. 4. the potassium layer of the photocathode can be overheated.
notably at 365 nm.html
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 A.most of the energy emitted is at a wavelength of 254 nm. However. Sci. In the case of ﬂuorescent lighting.Id: 005. Melissinos.com thorlabs.tex. pp. This UVA radiation may not be absorbed by the phosphor. Experiments in Modern Physics (Academic Press.photoelectric.org/hpspublications/articles/uv. 1966). The phosphor will re-emit at visible wavelengths (diﬀerent phosphors produce diﬀerent colours).
APPENDIX A: EQUIPMENT LIST
Manufacturer Thermo Oriel Thermo Oriel Thor Labs Leybold
Description Low-Pressure Hg Lamp Hg Line Filters Optical Components Photocell
URL oriel. which lies in the UVA (315 .hps.  P. Baumeister and G. The mercury vapor emits UVR when an electrical discharge is passed through it . This lies in the UVC portion of the spectrum (180 280 nm). Pincus. For more information on UV radiation. the 254 nm radiation is used to excite a phosphor which coats the inside of the glass envelope of the lamp.400 nm). 58–75 (????). the mercury discharge will also emit at other wavelengths .com oriel. see the Health Physics Society site at http: //www.de
APPENDIX B: UV SAFETY
Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is emitted from low pressure mercury vapour. Am. and any UVC which is not absorbed by the phosphor will be absorbed by the glass wall of the lamp.com leybold-didactic.v 1. and much of it will pass out through the lamp walls into the environment.